“Lawrence is a good boy,” said Lucina; “it is a pity he is no taller, and looks so like his father; but he is very good. I do think, though, he might go to ride with me sometimes and save father from going. I would rather have father, but I know he does not like to ride. Lawrence had been planning to go to ride with me all through the summer. It was strange he stopped—was it not, mother?”
“Perhaps he is busy. I saw him driving with his father the other day,” said Abigail.
“Well, perhaps he is,” assented Lucina, easily. Then she asked advice as to this or that shade in the ears of the little poodle-dog which she was embroidering.
“Lucina is as transparent as glass,” her mother thought. “She could never speak of Lawrence Prescott in that way if she were in love with him, and there is no one else in town.”
Abigail Merritt, acute and tender mother as she was, settled into the belief that her daughter was merely given to those sweetly melancholy and wondering reveries natural to a maiden soul upon the threshold of discovery of life. “I used to do just so, busy as I always was, before Eben came,” she thought, with a little pang of impatient shame for herself and her daughter that they must yield to such necessities of their natures. Abigail Merritt had never been a rebel, indeed, but there had been unruly possibilities within her. She remembered well what she had told her mother when her vague dreams had ended and Eben Merritt had come a-wooing. “I like him, and I suppose, because I like him I’ve got to marry him, but it makes me mad, mother.”
Looking now at this daughter of hers, with her exceeding beauty and delicacy, which a touch would seem to profane and soil as much as that of a flower or butterfly, she had an impulse to hide her away and cover her always from the sight and handling of all except maternal love. She took much comfort in the surety that there was as yet no definite lover in Lucina’s horizon. She did not reflect that no human soul is too transparent to be clouded to the vision of others, and its own, by the sacred intimacy with its own desires. Her daughter, looking up at her with limpid blue eyes, replying to her interrogation with sweet readiness, like a bird that would pipe to a call, was as darkly unknown to her as one beyond the grave. She could not even spell out clearly her hieroglyphics of life with the key in her own nature.
The day after Lucina had met Jerome on the Dale road, and had failed to set the matter right, she took her embroidery-work over to her Aunt Camilla’s. She had resolved upon a plan which was to her quite desperate, involving, as it did, some duplicity of manoeuvre which shocked her.